You never know the impact your words and actions will have on another person. My friend, Trish, and I discovered this when we visited the Florida Panhandle earlier this year.
A little bit about my friend. Trish is one of the most amicable people I know. We spend a lot of time together, including our annual March Madness getaway. (We literally get away from the college basketball tournament our husbands love). Whether it is a cowboy in Luckenbach, Texas, a server in San Antonio or an innkeeper in Georgia, she will strike up a conversation and have a new friend within minutes. She’s just like that — the extrovert to my introvert.
Did you ever have one of those days?
Two years ago, we were in Niceville, Florida to attend the annual Oyster Roast at my brother’s house. We stayed at a nearby Hampton Inn. While we were waiting our turn to speak to the manager at the front desk, we noticed she seemed downcast. It was probably because of the rude guest in front of us. Through our conversation with her, we learned that Kathy was new to the area and it was her birthday — her first away from home without friends or family to help her celebrate. No wonder she was down!
Well, Kathy’s plight tugged on our heartstrings so we knew we had to do something. After all, everyone deserves a little something special on their birthday.
There was a Publix Super Market nearby so before we headed out for the day, we made one brief stop. There are not many things better than a Publix Bakery cupcake so we picked one up along with a birthday card. We took the confection and card back to Kathy, hoping to brighten her day a little.
We didn’t do it for praise or a pat on the back. We did it because we saw someone who simply needed a kind word, a kind gesture to make it through a rough day.
Neither one of us gave it a thought after that — until a few weeks ago.
The rest of the story
My cell phone rang early on a Sunday morning. It was Trish. “You aren’t going to believe the conversation I just had.”
She told me that she recognized the woman working the front desk at the Hampton Inn in Niceville. She asked her if she remembered two women bringing her a cupcake and a birthday card a couple of years earlier. She did and she told Trish a most heartwarming story.
Kathy told Trish that she thought of us often. Our kind gesture had changed her life by changing her attitude and the way she approached her work each day.
Not long after we gave her the birthday treat, two women checked into the hotel. It was a bucket-list trip for a woman and her grandmother, who was dying of cancer. The grandmother wanted to stay where she could see the water and the website showed the hotel in a gorgeous setting with sparkling water in the background.
When they arrived at the hotel, they were dismayed that there was construction work being done. No waterfront rooms were available. They thought their trip was ruined and that they may as well leave.
Kathy remembered the kindness shown to her by two previous travelers and tried to set things right. She bought the pair flowers, balloons and a card all in the hopes of bringing sunshine to their disappointing day. She let them know she genuinely hoped the remainder of their trip went well.
They ended up staying at the hotel and enjoyed their time there. Kathy said she wanted to make them feel as good as we made her feel.
But that’s not the whole story. This hotel employee who chose to pass on the encouragement she received was recognized several times by her company’s hospitality program. In 2017, she won the Spirit Award, chosen from more than 2,000 Inns and employees.
And it started with just a cupcake and a card.
I have to be honest. I don’t always think about doing something like this. Most days I have my blinders on, just trying to get things done. I wonder what the world would look like if we all slowed down long enough to show kindness to those around us.